Name: Luxwell Jokonya, MBChB, M.Med
University of Zimbabwe, MBChB, M.Med
When and why did you join the Congress of Neurological Surgeons?
I joined the Congress of Neurological Surgeons when I was still a resident. The main reason was to get online educational information and access to journals when I was in training. Also being in a Third World country, I wanted to keep abreast with the cutting-edge research and best current practices so I can offer the best for my patients. It is still resourceful even now that I am practicing!
What advice do you have for new CNS members on how they can best reap the benefits of CNS membership?
Visit the website regularly, and tap into the various learning platforms and educational resources, as they are priceless. Take advantage of discounted courses when available.
How did you get into the field of neurosurgery?
When I was a medical student, there were two things that fascinated me more than anything. The first and most important was the brain with all its complexities. The second one was surgery. So the only plausible way I could think of to quench my fascination for both was to become a neurosurgeon. From that time on, my life was deliberate towards that direction. When I started training, there was a period where there were only three neurosurgeons serving the whole country´s public health system, with a population of about 14 million. This inevitably led to delays in accessing essential neurosurgical services, compromising outcomes. I felt I could make a difference by joining the team. The workload was enormous, the training tough, but the exposure and learning opportunities were great.
Describe your job in a tweet (i.e. 280 characters)
I basically teach, research, and practice neurosurgery. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I am a lecturer in the department of surgery at the College of Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, and also a consultant neurosurgeon and head of Harare Hospital pediatric neurosurgery.
What is the biggest challenge you face on the job, and how are you managing it?
Being the only neurosurgeon at the second largest tertiary hospital in a country going through a severe economic crisis is not an easy task. The hospital I work in serves some of the poorest communities in the country, and as if that is not enough the hospital has not been spared by the economic situation, operating with barely minimum resources. This has forced us to work at almost an emergency mode. When I was training, I thought that all I would be doing was real neurosurgery, little did I know that a huge part of it was going to be advocating for patients, motivating for support and lobbying for life saving resources for my patients.
The biggest challenge is really resource limitation. Apart from lobbying for more resources, one of our biggest tools has been innovation and improvising, without which we may not have been able to save some of the lives we did. For example, to manage acute hydrocephalus in an infant (with open fontanels), in the absence of external ventricular drains, we have oftentimes improvised with a normal intravenous catheter to cannulate the ventricles and connect to a fluid giving set into a drainage bag!
What research, science, and/or technology do you see having the biggest impact on the future of neurosurgery?
I think that understanding the basic principles of neurosurgery (including both the anatomy and physiology) is one of the biggest resources a neurosurgeon can have. That alone is the single most important pillar on which all innovation and technology rests heavily upon. Perhaps having experienced the differences in practicing in both resource limited areas and those fully equipped, it has led me to realize how understanding of important basics can cover up for lack of certain equipment, and also how availability of sophisticated equipment can make one overlook basic fundamentals of neurosurgery. No amount of investigation can fully replace the value of a good history and examination. No sophistication of equipment can fully replace the value of good surgical techniques with respect for tissue. That being said, technology has without doubt, generally improved patient outcomes and continues to do so.
What are you proudest of in your life or career?
My w, Tariro! Occasionally when I’m faced with a challenging case, I deliberately think aloud in her presence. She inevitably throws in a comment or question that oftentimes has helped me to think in a different direction. I have won some battles this way! Also, my mentors Professor Kalangu, Professor Figaji, and Dr. Enslin. I have often been able to see further riding on the shoulders of these men. As my journey is just beginning I take great pride in having such support and “cheerleaders”.
If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why?
I think that would be Albert Einstein! I have always admired his ability to see things at a different angle from most, and to think outside the box. That being said, Aaron Cohen-Gadol, MD has this ability to bring in a simplistic step by step approach to some of the most complex surgeries. I love his videos and interviewing him would be priceless.